Actress Liz Dawn, who played battleaxe-with-a-heart Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street for 34 years, has died aged 77.
One of Britain’s most recognisable soap stars, she had fought a 13-year battle with emphysema. She died peacefully in her sleep on Monday night, her family announced yesterday.
Miss Dawn first appeared on Coronation Street in 1974 and for more than 2,000 episodes entertained generations of viewers with her portrayal of Vera opposite hen-pecked husband Jack, played by Bill Tarmey.
She revelled in the role. Vera, with her big mouth and a fiery temper, clashed frequently with the work-shy and manipulative Jack, as well as with the Street’s other women.
Stormy marriage: Liz Dawn as Vera Duckworth with Bill Tarmey as hen-pecked husband Jack in 1998
Miss Dawn’s exit from the ITV soap – Vera was shown dying of heart failure in 2008 – was prompted by her own ill health, the result of years of heavy smoking. She made a final appearance in 2010, as a ghostly vision of Vera appeared to Jack on his death bed.
Despite suffering a heart attack in 2013, she came out of retirement two years later for a one-off appearance in Emmerdale.
Her family said in a statement: ‘We are devastated and heartbroken at the passing of our much-loved wife, mother, sister, grandmother and great grandmother, the incredible Liz Dawn.
‘Liz died peacefully last night at home with her loving family around her. She has been the love, light and inspiration in our lives and we are bereft at her passing.’
A statement from Coronation Street read: ‘We have been blessed to have Liz in our lives, as she was such a kind, considerate and caring friend and colleague.
Miss Dawn first appeared on Coronation Street in 1974
‘As Coronation Street’s Vera Duckworth for 34 years, Liz brought so much joy and happiness to so many. She was a wonderful actress who will forever be a true Coronation Street legend.’ Fans said that Jack and Vera would now be reunited – Tarmey died in Spain from a heart attack in 2012.
Heartbroken former Street colleagues paid tribute last night to an ‘amazing woman’.
William Roache, 85, who plays Ken Barlow, described Miss Dawn as a ‘consummate professional’ with ‘brilliant comedy timing’.
‘Liz Dawn was one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever met. She was kind. The first to help anybody in trouble … A very loving and loveable person,’ he said.
Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster, said: ‘She was such a giving person who always thought about other people before herself. She was an inspiration of how to be in life, and I’m going to miss her.’
Julie Goodyear, 75, who played Vera’s sometime nemesis Bet Lynch, said: ‘Such sad news regarding the passing of Liz Dawn. I send my sincere condolences to her family. RIP Liz, my love.’
Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts for 20 years, said: ‘That double act with Bill Tarmey was something very special. It was comedy gold and British comedy and British writing at its best. She took the words off the page and made them come to life.
‘It was great to watch. My favourite time in Coronation Street was when I lived with the Duckworths. It was 100 miles an hour and a million decibels, they were so natural, if you had lines in the middle of it you would struggle to get it in.’
Vera, with her big mouth and a fiery temper, clashed frequently with the work-shy and manipulative Jack, as well as with the Street’s other women (left, with lodger Curly Watts)
Beverley Callard, who plays Liz McDonald, said Miss Dawn was ‘a darling of a person’.
Michael Le Vell – mechanic Kevin Webster in the soap since 1983 – said: ‘For anyone young who joined the show, Liz was the matriarch.
‘She took us under her wing and helped guide us through the show. She did that for me. She’s going to be a big loss to us all.’
Sally Ann Matthews, who plays Jenny Bradley, said: ‘She had a presence. When I bought my first home, Liz gave me some money to “buy something nice and stick it on the wall”.
How she bent Jack’s ear
‘I’ll make you cry, you bone-idle tight-fisted pig!’ (After he gave her the same Christmas card as last year)
‘I can’t feed ya, what kind of a protest’s that? I’m going to bingo, and I might be going for a drink after.’ (When, on a rooftop protest, he asked for a sandwich)
‘Is everything alright, downstairs? There’s no need to be embarrassed, I mean, you’re knocking on a bit – so your pipes are bound to be clanking.’ (Advising him on Viagra)
‘I did love ya, and I still love ya. Well, go on then, say you love me. Please, I’ve never loved anybody else. Go on, say you’ve never loved anybody else.’ (Just before her death)
I bought a painting of The Lady of Shalott and think of her every time I look at it.’ Former Corrie actress Tracy Brabin, now a Labour MP, said Miss Dawn was ‘deeply authentic – a natural comedian and a heart as big as Manchester’.
Executive producer Kieran Roberts said: ‘Liz Dawn was a true Coronation Street legend, a brilliant actor and a wonderful person.’
Miss Dawn was born Sylvia Butterfield in Leeds in November 1939. She left school at 16 and worked selling light bulbs in Woolworths, in a local tailoring factory, as a cinema usherette and as a shoe salesgirl. She began her showbusiness career as a nightclub singer, adopting the stage name Elizabeth Dawn.
She was married twice – to miner Walter Bradley in 1957 and to electrician Donald Ibbertson in 1965 – and had four children. By the late 1960s she ventured into acting, with small parts in TV programmes and in advertisements. During the 1970s Miss Dawn appeared in a variety of programmes, including All Creatures Great And Small and Colin Welland’s play Leeds United.
Of finding fame in Coronation Street, she once said: ‘It does take over your life. People don’t realise. They think you’ve had a charmed life. They don’t see that you’ve brought up four children and learnt lines on the train.’
In 2000, she was chosen as the Lady Mayoress of Leeds and that year was awarded an MBE for services to charity, having helped to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for hospitals in Manchester and Leeds. She also campaigned for the British Lung Foundation.
Miss Dawn’s exit from the ITV soap – Vera was shown dying of heart failure in 2008 – was prompted by her own ill health, the result of years of heavy smoking